Charlie is a hard working widow without many qualifications. She gave up on her education, had her child young, and then her husband died. This leads her to a series of working class jobs as she tries to keep a roof over her and her daughter, Casey’s head. Her current job is working as a guard/monitor at a bail hostel. This job exposes her to knowledge of criminals and the law. She is conscientious and works hard, often working the graveyard shift.
She comes home to find that a neighbor and friend’s son is missing, later to be found dead. Being that the child, Darren, had been in trouble with the law and had a mother who does not really present herself well to the police or media, there is not much hope that the case will be solved. Charlie begins to investigate the crime using a surprisingly keen intelligence and a determination to find justice for Darren. Through this process she discovers or perhaps rediscovers herself. This is all set against a rather grim backdrop of life in a neighborhood where many people don’t work, others live paycheck to paycheck barely making it, and many boys find themselves in the criminal justice system.
The mystery focuses on what it means to try to find justice when the victim doesn’t generate much sympathy. Outside of the mystery, there are subplots involving Charlie’s daughter’s education and future. Will she follow in her mother’s footsteps? Finally, there is the personal growth of Charlie’s character over the course of the book. These three pieces fit together in a tightly woven story line. Highly recommended read.